THESE astonishing pictures reveal the full power of Storm Desmond which ripped up entire roads as it tore through Cumbria, The Sun reports. It left a huge hole dubbed “The Gap” in the A591, a main route linking the north and south Lake District – which may not be repaired until next Easter. Locals face an 80-mile, two-hour detour for a journey that used to take just 20 minutes.
Army personnel from the 21 Engineer Regiment, based at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, worked throughout the weekend to help clear thousands of tons of rubble from 18 separate landslips on the road. Cumbria council said: “The scale of repair is significant. We’re doing detailed assessments.”
But people living on either side of The Gap – including kids cut off from their school – are demanding quicker action. Local businesses fearing financial ruin have collected 3,000 signatures on a petition calling for the diggers to move in now. South Lakes MP and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “This road is a key route – it would be crippling for businesses if it were to remain closed for months.”
Vivienne Rees, South Lakeland district councillor for Grasmere and Ambleside, said there were people living in both communities who had elderly relatives with medical needs on the other side of Dunmail Raise. She said to get to them residents were having to travel to Kendal, go up the M6 and then on the A66. A shorter route is travelling over Kirkstone Pass – but that is often closed in winter because of snow and ice.
She said: “This is a national crisis and not just a local one. It is one that affects the country as a whole in terms of tourism. “Speed is of the essence. It is going to be impossible for a lot of businesses to carry on if the repairs are not made urgently.” Heidi Halliday, Cumbria County councillor for the Lakes, said: “It’s the backbone of the Lake District and it’s gone.
“It is a matter of urgency that this road is repaired and we need to recognise that the Government has a huge part to play in this. “We need the money to re-open and re-build that road and the Government should be offering us every available resource to allow that to happen.” Thousands of people abandoned their homes as floods overwhelmed parts of Cumbria and Lancashire earier this month.
Pupils at Grasmere Primary School invited soldiers to lunch to thank them for the efforts being made to clear the A591. Headteacher Jo Goode said the road closure was having a “huge impact” on pupils living on the “wrong side” of The Gap. She said: “Rather than having a seven-mile journey into school they now have a 78-mile journey.
“We are lucky that local families are putting children up this week. We also have members of staff and parents who live north.” Older children in the village who attend the secondary school in Keswick are having to do online learning from home as they cannot able to make the journey. Jane Hill used to be able to get her five year-old daughter Olivia to school by car in just ten minutes but now faces a two hour, 78-mile journey each way.
She said: “I normally live in Thirlmere but I’ve had to move to Grasmere so that I can get Olivia to and from school. The roads I’d have to use to take the longer journey can be dangerous in winter, so my friend is letting me have one of her holiday cottages here in Grasmere for the rest of this week.” Retired GP Dr David Earnshaw questioned why the army was not asked to make a temporary bridge while soldiers were in the area.
He feared that it could be months before work starts on repairs as Cumbria County Council would be holding ‘lots of meetings, deliberations and prioritising.” He said: “It is an absolute must that this road is repaired urgently. It will ruin the local economy if it is not.” Keith Little of Cumbria county council said: “There is no complacency here and we will bring in extra resources as required to get Cumbria’s road network fully functional as quickly as possible.
“Visual inspections have been undertaken and structural assessments, including ground investigations, have now started. The results of these assessments are needed before we can be confident about the timescale for repairing the road.
“We are also assessing options for temporary measures which could allow people to travel past the damaged sections of road and reconnect the north and south ends. These are being developed as a matter of urgency and more detail will be available once their feasibility has been established.”
Following extensive emergency repair work, the A592 alongside Ullswater between Waterfoot and the Kirkstone Pass has been reopened to all traffic. And St Lawrence road bridge and Jubilee footbridge in Appleby both reopened on Tuesday following underwater inspections by divers. The bridges had been closed as a precautionary measure.